Feature Cricket

Hope Springs

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 23 March, 2019, 1:57 PM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

After what seems like a rather jaded season, rather protracted and turmoil filled, Australia found a glimmer of hope not only on their own turf but rather on the distant land of India. Now buoyed by their unexpected series success in limited overs cricket, Australia are eying time against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as their final dress rehearsal for defending their title in England come June.

It would be fair to say Australia did not appear to stand a chance, not a realistic one anyway, judging by the way they fared at home against essentially the same Indian team at the end of a Test series that, also, went India’s way for the first time in seven decades. The ball tampering/sandpaper-gate fiasco last March appeared to have hit the final nail in the coffin of Australia’s burgeoning problems. June and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, not to mention the Ashes, seemed like a distant dream as the home season ended disastrously with plenty of worrying questions and not enough by way of answers.

However, even as the tide seemed not to budge for Australia when they landed in India, the close finish in the second one day international spurred something in the Australians and although 2-0 in the five match series, they suddenly found resilience and hope in the likes of branded Test specialist Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb who was living like on a tightrope and an unexpected bonus in Ashton Turner. Adam Zampa turned the game on its head with his spinning ability, enough to suggest that Nathan Lyon would be playing catch up.

Even in the midst of this sudden good fortune in the form of a series win, their first in a couple of years, Australia have a few headaches and worries they must consider. Although they appear to have hit a golden streak, the shifting of sands from India to the UAE from India to Pakistan could well be a different story if Australia are not able adapt. Furthermore, the performances of these players still proves a tricky headache for the coach and the rest of the think tank because the skipper, Arron Finch, is himself under pressure to score runs. Steven Smith and David Warner will not be playing in the series against Pakistan which means, barring the Indian Premier League (IPL), the two seasoned players could be heading to the ICC Cricket World Cup virtually without an international match under the belt post the ban. Whether their past reputation is enough to merit automatic solution at the cost of these players who appear to be just about hitting their stride in pivotal positions is something Australia will have to weigh.

If Australia could struggle to accommodate Shaun March or find a place more stable for David Maxwell, their bowling is, also, under the scanner. For one, Mitchell Starc has not had a great run and Josh Hazlewood has been rendered unavailable with stress fractures in his back. In that light, there could be a few selection headaches in the bowling department as well with the likes of Jhye Richardson, also, throwing his hat into the ring and vying for a spot.

While Justin Langer, the Australian coach, is right in thinking the Australian batting order would not be tampered with too much with success continues for them in the UAE, there are some pivotal questions Australia must address if they are to successfully defend their title as champions of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

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Feature Cricket

RCB not winning the IPL a surprise

Partab Ramchand Updated: 23 March, 2019, 2:06 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

IPL – 12 cannot get off to a better start. It kicks off at the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chennai on Saturday with a really big bang with two heavyweights Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore beginning the proceedings. Tickets were sold out within hours not surprisingly when one side is led by MS Dhoni and the other by Virat Kohli. Besides the charismatic captains there are a number of crowd pullers in both sides and this being T-20 cricket it goes without saying that it will be a close contest going down to the last over – or perhaps even to the last ball.

There cannot be any favourites in this format particularly given the fact that it is the tournament opener. CSK however enjoys a much better record overall having won the title three times in nine editions (they were banned for two years) whereas RCB has not won the IPL even once, its best being finishing runners up three times.

The inability of RCB to inscribe their names on the trophy has been the subject of much discussion for on team personnel they would be right up there as leading contenders. But they have frequently played well below the high standards they are capable of. Otherwise there is no reason why a team which has three of the best players in the world in this format - Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers – should not be able to win the title at least once.

Is it then a leadership problem? It is this point that Gautam Gambhir raised a few days ago while questioning various aspects of Kohli’s captaincy. He was of the view that the Indian captain is ``very lucky’’ to be continuing as captain of RCB. He said that Kohli should be thankful that the franchisee has not sacked him despite his continued failure to win them a title.

Under Kohli RCB have won 44 and lost 47 matches. Kohli took over the captaincy full time in 2012 and in seven seasons under him RCB have progressed to the play offs on just two occasions despite having the most star studded batting line-up in the competition and a number of other big names. Incidentally RCB, King’s XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils/Capitals remain the only sides without a title but RCB are the only franchisee to have shown faith in their leadership.

RCB have the opportunity to set the record straight in IPL – 12. Can they play up to their potential and lift the trophy for the first time?

News Cricket

Dwayne Bravo reveals CSK's success mantra

Staff Writer Updated: 23 March, 2019, 10:55 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Chennai Super Kings have performed exceptionally well in the Indian Premier League since the inception of the tournament in 2008.

Despite their two-year ban, they made a successful return to cash rich league, winning the title in 2018.

CSK's key player and former West Indies all-rounder Dwayne Bravo has revealed their success mantra.

"Keeping the core group and retaining most of the players has been CSK’s strength over 10 seasons. It’s a belief and a reward at the same time."

MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Stephen Fleming have been associated with the franchise since 2008. They were recently felicitated for their long term association with the Chennai based franchise.

After the IPL 2018 auction, many termed CSK as 'Dad's Army' due to a vast number of players aged above 30. With the likes of Dhoni, Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Bravo, Shane Watson, Harbhajan Singh and Ambati Rayudu, very few thought that the Yellow Brigade will go the distance. However, they defied odds as many of their veterans stood out in crucial situations and bailed the team out of a crisis.

"We were aware for the name-calling, but you can’t beat experience, no matter. The way CSK went about picking the squad at the auction – experience along with some talented young players. The core of the team was kept, and that made a huge difference. Last year everyone doubted us, and we went on to win the crown."

News Cricket

Mickey Arthur wants to test best players for World Cup

Staff Writer Updated: 23 March, 2019, 10:51 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Pakistan’s coach Mickey Arthur has said that that they had done everything possible to be the best possible prepared team for the World Cup. Pakistan decided to bench their key players for the upcoming series against Australia and the coach believes that the series is a good chance for the youngsters to prove themselves. He is confident that new players will grab the opportunity to fill a few available places for the ICC Cricket World Cup.

"We designed this series for our players for the simple fact that we want to test our best bench players. We know our major players for the World Cup. After this series, we go to England and we go there with a very settled squad and the roles will be defined. We want to know where the squad stands. We feel that we have done everything possible to be the best possible prepared team for the World Cup", International Cricket Council quoted Arthur as saying.

"For us, it is not so much about Australia, this is about those positions for the World Cup and the opportunity created for a lot of players because, for us, we need to find who our players are for every position. If we could do that out of this series, then it would be good for us", he added.

"It is a new squad. This is a series of opportunities. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to work out that a few positions are available for the World Cup. There are probably four available. Inzamam-ul-Haq and I have discussed that. So, these young players need to raise their hands up and try to make those places their own. It's an exciting time going into the World Cup," Arthur said.

News Cricket

Kane Williamson to lead Sunrisers Hyderabad

Staff Writer Updated: 23 March, 2019, 10:47 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Sunrisers Hyderabad head coach Tom Moody has revealed that New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson has recovered from his injury. Kane will lead the Orange Army in the IPL 2019 starting on March 23. Williamson led SRH to the finals last season and was also the Orange Cap holder with 735 runs.

"We all know that Kane Williamson is not only an outstanding player in all formats of the game but he is also a highly respected international leader."

"He stepped up last year and did a wonderful performance not only as a captain, but as a top order player. We have no question in his ability with the bat. He is a wonderful player. We got a side that boasts of lot of leadership and that's the strength of any squad that is going to be successful. It is not just dependent on one leader alone.”

News Cricket

Jasprit Bumrah has benefited from spending time with Malinga

Staff Writer Updated: 23 March, 2019, 10:41 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Zaheer Khan recently revealed that Bumrah idolizes Lasith Malinga and spending time with him has helped him become a better bowler. Malinga has been added to the Mumbai Indians squad following the last edition of the IPL where he was part of the coaching staff. Zaheer feels that Malinga’s presence will add valuable experience to the team.

“We are excited about it (Malinga’s return). The kind of experience he brings to the table is immense. Not only with his bowling but when you’re in a game situation, it’s a relief for Rohit and other bowlers who trust his experience and the valuable advice,” Zaheer told the reporters.

“As a coaching staff, you can plan things, but when things are happening in real time, a proactive person on the field makes a huge difference in terms of decision making. And you have someone like Malinga as well.

“Bumrah kind of idolises him as well. Malinga in his peak and Bumrah are two similar kind of bowlers. Bumrah has benefitted spending time with Malinga,” the 2011 World cup winner added.

News Cricket

KKR have strongest batting line-up in IPL

Staff Writer Updated: 23 March, 2019, 10:34 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Australia batsman and KKR assistant coach Simon Katich stated that Kolkata based franchise has the strongest batting line-up in the Indian Premier League. With players like Chris Lynn, Robin Uthappa, Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite in the side, Katich feels KKR can go all the way in the tournament. With a maximum of four foreigners allowed in the playing XI, it may be a selection headache for the team management.

"The big fella (Brathwaite) here has potentially one of the best strike rates in World T20. So in terms of our batting, it's the strongest in the competition."

"We are blessed with a lot of powerful players such as Lynn and Sunil Narine, who is good in the Powerplay. Then we have Robin (Uthappa), Nitish (Rana), DK (Dinesh Karthik) and Shubman (Gill)," he said.

"Last year, six of our batsmen (Karthik, Lynn, Narine, Uthappa, Russell and Nitish Rana) were inside the top-25 leading run getters in the tournament," he pointed out.

"So we have a very powerful batting line-up. It would be great to see the big fella (Brathwaite) get out there and start swatting sixes like flies at the back-end of the innings," said Katich.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli dishes out the perfect reply to Gautam Gambhir’s "lucky to survive" jibe

Staff Writer Updated: 23 March, 2019, 10:13 AM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Virat Kohli, the Indian skipper, has a knack of giving it back to his critics. The right hand batsman has stated that he would be sitting at home if he think like people from outside.

He was indirectly responding to Gautam Gambhir’s, who recently said that Kohli has been lucky to be still leading Royal Challengers Bangalore despite his trophy less CV.

"Obviously, you want to win the IPL. I am doing what I am supposed to do. I don't care whether I am going to be judged on this (not winning IPL) or not. There is no real, sort of, parameters you set. I try to perform wherever I can. I try to win all the possible titles, but sometimes it just doesn't happen," said Kohli.

"We have to be practical about why we haven't won one. That boils down to bad decision making in pressure situations. If I think like people from outside, I can't even sustain five games. I would be sitting at home," he added.

Earlier, Gambhir had also stated that Virat shouldn’t be compared to MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma.

"I don't see him as a shrewd captain. I don't see him as a tactful captain (tactician). And he hasn't won the IPL. So ultimately, a captain is only as good as his record," Gambhir had said.

Kohli further added that he would love to win the IPL for his team.

"I know people talk about it a lot and they like to grab opportunities to talk about these things. But I have a responsibility here and given a chance, as a captain, I would love to win the IPL for my team.

"We all are motivated to do so. It has not happened and that's the reality. No excuses for that. Only acceptance of the faults that we made in the past. The fact that we played six semifinals means that we have been a side who are always in contention. If we make better decisions, we can go further than that. That's how I see things.”

News Cricket

I deserve to be in World Cup squad - Umesh Yadav

Staff Writer Updated: 22 March, 2019, 5:11 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Umesh Yadav will play for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the upcoming edition of the Indian Premier League. Umesh feels he has done enough to travel with Team India to England.

He further stated that young bowlers have failed to grab their chances. Umesh, who was India's highest wicket-taker at the 2015 World Cup, is still optimistic about his chances.

Speaking to IANS, Umesh Yadav said, "If you look at the IPL as a platform to convince selectors that I am the man to be picked for the World Cup, I am the man."

Umesh Yadav is looking forward to perform exceptionally well for RCB in the cash rich league to boost his chances of wearing Indian jersey once again.

"The fourth bowler that the team is looking at, I feel I fit that role. I don't think any of the youngsters have done enough to replace the senior bowlers. At the end of the day, you are going to play the World Cup and not just any other tournament like a bilateral series," said Yadav.

"Experience is a must on the big stage. Someone with an experience of playing 10-12 matches is not enough because if a situation arises that one of the frontline bowler is injured, you must have the replacement who is able to handle the pressure of that situation. You need someone who can bowl 140kmph-plus and has the mental ability to perform under pressure," he said.

News Cricket

MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Stephen Fleming felicitated by CSK

Staff Writer Updated: 22 March, 2019, 5:01 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina and head coach Stephen Fleming were felicitated by Chennai Super Kings (CSK) for being the longest serving members of the franchise.

Dhoni and Raina have been a part of the franchise since the inaugural edition in 2008. While Stephen Fleming joined the team as a player and then was appointed the coach in 2009.

The trio played an important role in CSK's IPL triumphs in 2010, 2011 and 2018.

Fleming feels defending IPL title in the upcoming season won’t be easy and they will have to perform exceptionally well to land second consecutive and fourth title overall in the league.

"Our challenge is to win the Cup again. It's difficult, takes a lot of things to work for you," Fleming said.

"We've come back and rebased ourselves on what we need to do to stay comfortable and what we need to do from a skill point of view to compete with seven other very good sides," he added.

"We prefer experienced players because they identify big moments and last year they won them. That's our challenge again."

News Cricket

Aaron Finch ready to sacrifice opening slot

Staff Writer Updated: 22 March, 2019, 4:48 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

With Smith and Warner likely to return for the World Cup, skipper Aaron Finch is ready to demote himself in the batting order. Finch said he is fine with the idea of batting at any position for the benefit of the team. His position has become dicey with Usman Khawaja displaying terrific form in the ODI series win over India.

“If that means me batting at six, I’ll comfortably do that. If it’s at the top, three or four, it doesn’t matter. I can bat down the order if need be,” Finch was quoted as saying by the Cricket Australia website on the eve of the first ODI versus Pakistan in Sharjah.

“Personal results aren’t what this side is about. I think that’s what has made our improvement as dramatic and quick as it has been.

“If you go in just solely focused on scoring a hundred or thinking, ‘if I bat at five, I’m not going to get a hundred. I don’t get enough opportunity’, that’s not what is best.”

Feature Cricket

A Free Hit or Test Cricket Gone for a Toss?

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 22 March, 2019, 4:44 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Where in the world is seriousness mixed with the frivolous to the point of turning a revered game into one that was built specifically for entertainment purposes? If the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) has its way, Test cricket may be one of those in that rare, ignominious league.

Amongst the many recommendations made by the World Cricket committee of the MCC was the idea of introducing free hits in the sphere of Test cricket. Currently a no-ball on the part of the bowler in the limited overs game incurs a free hit wherein the field changes to enhance the scoring opportunity for the batting team. Not only does the no ball prove costly for the bowler but also, the free hit generates added excitement because of the run scoring opportunity provided to the opponent.

Over the years, particularly over the last decade since the advent of Twenty20, several recommendations have been made towards incentivizing spectators to turn up at the stadiums for the five day format. With a greater propensity of cricket boards to propagate the shorter formats, particularly Twenty20, with a view to making easy money, Test cricket has often had to bear the brunt of ideas that are not only not original but also, unlike its own character.

However, the idea being mooted is not just or rather primarily from the point of view of generating additional energy and excitement but rather as a way of curbing bowlers from bowling too many no-balls in Test cricket. While the bowler is indeed penalized for the no ball in that he has to bowl the additional delivery but also, is now threatened with being hammered for runs given the idea of the field change as a result of the free hit.

The question though arises whether the MCC or even the International Cricket Council (ICC) could not come up with a better solution towards the transgression of bowers, particularly fast bowlers, which, also, means more time in the field in order to bowl the additional delivery and the eventual cost of time in Test cricket terms. Whether free hit and not a penalty run system is a better way to tackle the menace of no balls is highly debatable.

For Test cricket to become more popular, several ideas have been derived from the more so-called entertaining formats. However, it seems somewhat misplaced to have Test cricket suddenly change from a more deliberate, tactful avatar into a sudden death scenario every time the bowler steps across the white line at the crease in his bowling stride. While innovation and ideas have their place, whether Test cricket should go to such an extent wherein the batsmen, playing essentially the endurance game, should suddenly be asked to switch gears and play with a limited overs mindset every time the bowler veers off his mark is under consideration.

While Test cricket does provide its exhilarating moments as it does its absorbing ones, the idea of a free hit seems to have hit the fabric of Test cricket for a toss. If the intention behind the effort of introducing such a formula is to prevent the incidence of no balls alone, arguably there are more adequate measures to put in place that would take care of it more effectively. Automatic run penalties to the batting team in addition to the one additional delivery and run would be one way to go.

Feature Cricket

Gambhir is gutsy off the field too

Partab Ramchand Updated: 22 March, 2019, 4:40 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

He was gutsy with the bat while opening for India. These days Gautam Gambhir is gutsy in his statements. He speaks candidly on issues and personalities and is unafraid of ruffling a few feathers along the way. He is not one for the tiresome, clichéd platitudes. Gambhir believes in calling a spade a spade and he backs his views with facts and figures making it difficult to argue with him.

In the last couple of months Gambhir has taken a bold stand on many issues and personalities in the course of interviews and at promotional events. For example he never hid his disappointment at Mohammad Azharuddin given the honour of ringing the bell at a Test at the Eden Gardens. He made it clear that the former Indian captain had never been given a clean chit by the CBI in the match fixing case and only his ban was removed.

Gambhir was also brave enough to advocate that the BCCI should either snap all cricketing ties with Pakistan including multilateral events or engage with the arch rivals at every level as ``there cannot be conditional bans.’’ Outspoken in his support for the armed force on social media Gambhir said that what happened in Pulwama was ``absolutely not acceptable’’ and reiterated that there should be a blanket ban on engagements with Pakistan even if it came at the cost of being ostracized by the sporting community.

Asked what should be done if the two teams meet in the final Gambhir said in that case India should forfeit the final. ``The country is more important, those 40 soldiers who lost their lives are far more important than a cricket match. If we let go of the World Cup final the country should be ready for it.’’ Queried if India’s stand could lead to a sporting boycott of the country Gambhir said he would not mind that. ``All of us need to decide if sport is more important or the lives of our soldiaers. I am all for facing a backlash if the international sporting federation decides to ostracise us. If we get boycotted at sports event we should be ready for it,’’ he said.

In the last few days Gambhir has questioned Virat Kohli’s tactical nous in the lead up to the IPL saying that the Indian captain is ``very lucky’’ to be continuing as captain of the Royal Challengers, Bangalore. Gambhir said that Kohli should be thankful that the franchisee has not sacked him despite his continued failure to win them a title. ``Still a long way to go’’ Gambhir said not holding back when asked about Kohli’s captaincy. ``I don’t see him as a shrewd captain. And he hasn’t won the IPL. Ultimately a captain is only as good as his record.’’ Kohli took over the captaincy full time in 2012 and in seven seasons under him RCB have progressed to the play offs on just two occasions despite having the most star studded batting line-up in the competition which besides the captain includes Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers.

A couple of months ago Gambhir said that he was of the view that the likes of MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan should be asked to play first class cricket before joining the Indian team for the ODI series in Australia. ``I was a little disappointed because some of the guys should have played first class cricket. Ultimately you will get confidence only by scoring runs, not by hitting the nets.’’

Gambhir has also been very clear in his view that Rishabh Pant has not earned a place yet in the ODI squad. ``We have got Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik. He can wait for his opportunity. Obviously he has done well in Test cricket but In ODIs he can wait for his turn.’’ What a difference he makes from other cricketers who are either afraid to talk on contentious issues or controversial personalities or prefer to take the diplomatic route and indulge in commonplace remarks.

News Cricket

Virat Kohli will be remembered like Tendulkar and Lara

Staff Writer Updated: 22 March, 2019, 4:36 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Former Aussie fast bowler Glenn McGrath has picked India and England as favorites for the upcoming World Cup in England and Wales. He stated that India's bowling unit will hold key to the fortunes of Men in Blue in the show piece event.

He further added that Australia' ODI series win over India have increased their chances of defending the World Cup they won in 2015.

"The top two teams are going to be England and India. England had a tough time in West Indies and India lost to Australia. So, the competition will be tighter. Australia's chances have improved after their ODI and T20 win over India," said McGrath.

"The fact that Australia won the T20 series and the ODIs against India in India will boost their confidence. With those two (Steve Smith and David Warner) coming back, the team will be strengthened and those players were missed during the Australian summer," he added.

He said Indian skipper Virat Kohli will be remembered just like a Brian Lara or a Sachin Tendulkar after he bids adieu to cricket.

"Kohli is a class player. He is easily one of the best going around now. By the end of his career he will be held up there alongside the likes of Lara and Tendulkar. As a captain and player he is quite aggressive. He likes getting involved in the game. As long as the emotions do not run too much and if he is playing well, it is fine. He has matured a lot and he knows his game.

"He has got the respect of his players. Watching the way he batted in Australia, the only thing I would have said to the home bowlers is I would have preferred them to bowl a little bit short and be more aggressive when he first came out to bat. A lot of times they tried to swing the ball and if it is full, he is in complete control. There is no obvious weakness in his game. To get him out early is a massive bonus,” he added.

Videos Cricket

Watch - Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli’s latest ad reveals what makes their love special

Staff Writer Updated: 22 March, 2019, 4:30 PM IST

HIGHLIGHT

Indian skipper Virat Kohli and his wife Anushka Sharma recently shot for a new advertisement. Virat Kohli shared the video on his official Twitter handle and wrote that it was joy to shoot with her.

“Was a joy shooting for this, #PureFun! Check out the new Shyam Steel ad for their TMT bars made from #PureSteel,” Virat wrote in his tweet.

The commercial starts with Virat brining a cup of coffee for his better half. As she starts taking a sip, Virat stops her to cool it down for her.

Anushka Sharma likes his gesture a lot and coos at him while pulling his nose.

“Everyone asks us what is special about out love,” Virat says to the camera. “Nothing,” Anushka cuts him off. “...Just pure love.”

Anushka Sharma’s last release was ‘Zero’ with Shah Rukh Khan and Katrina Kaif. The film did do well at the box office.